THE killing of Pierre Gemayel in Beirut yesterday is the fifth political assassination in Lebanon in just under two years. Clearly politics is not a career to follow in Lebanon if you value your life; those who take the risk, like Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, are brave and dedicated men who continue to believe, against the odds, that Lebanon can again become a thriving, peaceful, multi–cultural state. The initial reaction to Mr Gemayel's death has been to point the finger of blame at Syria whose influence in Lebanon he opposed vigorously. However, as the investigators looking into former prime minister Rafik Hari's death in February last year have discovered, there are many people and organisations whose goal is to destabilise Lebanon. Yesterday's killing marred what would otherwise have been a rare hopeful day in the area. The Syrian foreign minister, Walid al–Moualem, visited Baghdad and signed an accord with his Iraqi conterpart, Hoshiyar Zeban/ which, among other things, recognised the need for US forces to remain in Iraq for the present. The two countries also agreed to restore the full diplomatic relations that were severed in 25 years ago when Syria supported Iran in its war with Iraq. The news that the leaders of Iraq, Syria and Iran will meet in Tehran this coming weekend at the invitation of President Ahmadinejad is another welcome sign that political progress in the region has need not be dependent on approval by the United States.